There are several keys to successful learning and I saw some of these in action on Saturday when taking Ivory, my Landseer (Newfoundland) dog-lodger to Keyhaven for a swimming lesson.
I assumed that such a skill would be inate – the breed is supposed to be a water lover, so wouldn’t she just see the sea and want to dive in? Well, no. She paddled a little but didn’t seem at all keen to go any deeper.
As a PR tutor, it is often easy to assume that students have a higher level of knowledge and enthusiasm than they do. I need to understand what makes them nervous about jumping in and provide plenty of encouragement. For the first teaching sessions, I normally play relaxing music, have toys and sweets on the desk and include various exercises to help everyone get to know each other. I also work from a “know nothing” level and aim to quickly gain confidence.
When Ivory saw a black Labrador diving in after a tennis ball, she stood and watched – clearly interested. Again, in class, it helps to use examples that have relevance.
But what really helped the big girl get into deeper water was my little mongrel, Barley. He is easily motivated as he adores chasing sticks. Throwing one into the shallows had him splashing about and swimming. Needless to say, Ivory soon joined in the fun.
Finding the right motivation is a great aid to learning – and having an influencer with whom you can identify, adds the final incentive.
Of course, teaching students is a bit more of a challenge than getting a couple of dogs to swim. But the smell of wet dogs in the car on the way home is much less rewarding than when you see students succeed in their assignments.
Given that the September marking has started to arrive, that’s a useful reminder for me too.